"Jesus in a Box" #81-21 Presented on The Lutheran Hour on January 26, 2014 By Rev. Ken Klaus, Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour Copyright 2014 Lutheran Hour Ministries
Text: Luke 4:24
Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed! The world believes that it can minimize the Savior's work if it keeps Him boxed up and out of the way in a corner. By God's grace may the Holy Spirit touch those sinful souls and free them from the confines and clutches of sin, the devil, and death. Grant such freedom and faith in the risen Redeemer to us all. Amen.
Does the name John Reid mean anything to you? Think hard. John Reid. Nothing? OK. How about the name Kent Allard? Does the name Kent Allard ring a bell? Maybe it might jog your memory if I told you that the aviator Kent Allard faked his death in an airplane crash and when he came back to the United States, he used the name Lamont Cranston. Still nothing? That's all right. If I give you a few more names, I'm sure you will be able to figure things out. The next name I have is Bruce Wayne and then there's Peter Parker. If you still are having trouble, that will change when I tell you the last name on the list is: Clark Kent.
Yes, Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for the great metropolitan newspaper The Daily Planet. Most people know that Clark Kent is the secret identity for Superman. Peter Parker is the web-slinging Spiderman, and Bruce Wayne is the Dark Knight, Batman. Kent Allard, aka, Lamont Cranston, was the famous Shadow who knew what evil lurked in the hearts of men. Which takes us back to the first name on the list, John Reid. Yes, John Reid, like the others I've mentioned here, has a secret side to him. According to the story line, John Reid is the only Ranger who escaped the ambush staged by the infamous Butch Cavendish gang. After his recovery John decided to fight crime under the name: the Lone Ranger. If you didn't get that one right, don't feel badly. Wherever John went people kept asking, "Who was that masked man."
Secret identities. For one reason or another, many of our fictional heroes have decided to compartmentalize themselves and are completely dedicated to keeping their personal lives and their professional persona totally separate. Indeed, their story lines indicate these superheroes are almost obsessive in their desire to keep the world in general, and the forces of evil in particular, from knowing who they really are.
Of course you and I aren't superheroes, are we? We don't have to keep our identities hidden because some criminal mastermind might attack our families. We don't have to be worried about being endlessly hounded by the paparazzi or being asked by Barbara Walters to do an exclusive interview for her next prime-time special. The truth is most of us are pretty much just regular folk. Those superheroes like to keep parts of themselves hidden and boxed away and we want just the opposite. That's why we do our level best to stop people from pigeon-holing us; from trying to force us into some ill-fitting box which they have created.
It's quite possible that you have, at some point or another in your life, felt yourself being stuffed into a box. People who have lived in small towns tell me that they were boxed because of their parents. If their mother and father were industrious and successful, they were expected to be the same. On the other hand, if their folks were slackers, the children could overhear the neighbors whispering, "Well, we never expected those kids to amount to much, after all, take a look at their parents."
Have you been boxed? I'm sure your parents loved you dearly, but did their remarks ever lead you to believe they thought of your brother or sister as being the smart one, or the athletic one, the good looking one, the likeable one? Which, of course, meant you were the dumb one, the uncoordinated one, the plain one, the outcast child. Did a teacher ever indicate you ought to behave because, after all, your brother or sister were such good, well-mannered students? Did your boss ever pass you over for a promotion because he had put you in a box? Being boxed is terribly frustrating. Being boxed means you have been unfairly judged; you have been inaccurately measured, and you have wrongly been found wanting. Worst of all, since the box into which you have been placed is based on myth, mist, and imagination there's not much you can do about it.
Believing you understand the concept of being boxed, I think you probably can appreciate how Jesus felt the day He came back to His Boyhood home of Nazareth. He had, since He was a toddler, lived in that hamlet. It was there He had had His playmates and there He learned the carpenter's trade. Jesus would have known the homes and the names of the folks who lived in them. He would have remembered what the dads did to put food on the table. He would have recalled which mother had the reputation of being a good cook and which ones couldn't boil water. He knew who was pleasing and pleasant as well as those who were crabby and cantankerous. It must have been quite the walk down memory lane for Jesus as He wandered down the familiar streets, past the small shops, and, as was His custom, into the town's Synagogue.
If those were memory-filled moments for Jesus, they were no less so for the citizenry of Nazareth who must have stretched their necks to see the town's most famous Son. You can almost hear some of the senior citizens of the community saying, "I recollect back when He was just a little Kid." His contemporaries would have recalled fun-filled days of play and still others might have remembered the years He had spent as an apprentice in Joseph's carpenter shop. Most of those folks in Nazareth would have had their memories of Jesus from "way back when" and all of them would have been comparing those recollections with the things they had heard about Jesus since He had left town.
You see, they had put Jesus in a box. That box said Jesus was the Son of Joseph the carpenter. That box said He was just One of them and Nobody all that special. He was just One of their old neighbors who had been making a reputation for Himself in the outside world. In a spirit of charity the folks from Nazareth decided to withhold their judgment on Jesus. They decided to wait and hear what He had to say, to watch and see what miracle, if any, He might perform. Their wait wasn't a long one. Jesus entered the Synagogue, the Elders gave Him the book of Isaiah and He read words of prophecy which pointed to the Messiah. So far there had been nothing in Jesus' demeanor or deportment to upset anybody. All in all they were impressed by what He said and how He said it.
Then, having read, Jesus launched into what we might call a sermon. Referring back to Isaiah's words He said, "The promises God made years ago through His spokesman are being fulfilled right now in front of you." Well, those Nazarenes didn't have to be rocket scientists to figure out Jesus had just laid claim to being the Messiah. His words said He wasn't willing to be kept in their little confining boxes. "Well, it sounded good on paper," they said to themselves, "but we'll just have to see." Then they added, "It might help if He'd back up His words by doing a miracle or two. He doesn't have to do anything big. We'll be content with the healing of a leper or the restoration of sight to a blind person. We're not picky."
That's when Jesus, knowing His old acquaintances had doubted His words and were disinclined to think of Him as the Savior, said, "I guess it's true, a prophet doesn't get any respect when He comes home." Quickly He added, "Folks, you've probably heard about those miracles I did in Capernaum? Well, there isn't going to be any instant-replay of them here." Jesus said a few more things which amplified that thought about Him not doing any healings in His hometown. When He was done, there was a change of attitude in the hearts of His hearers.
If Nazareth had had a mayor, he would have folded up his "Welcome home Jesus" speech and put away the gold key to the city. Any plans for a ticker-tape parade, if they had had ticker-tape back then, were cancelled. If someone had put up a sign on the outskirts of town which read, "Welcome to Nazareth, the Boyhood home of Jesus," it was quickly taken down and any shopkeeper who was thinking of selling Jesus souvenirs immediately rescinded his order.
Don't think I'm exaggerating. The situation was even worse than I have described. Those folks were so incensed and irritated they said to themselves, "Just who does this Jesus think He is. He doesn't want us to put Him into the box which reads 'Jesus, the Son of the Carpenter' and He doesn't want to do anything which might put Him in the box of the Messiah. Well, that's just too much. He may not want to be put in a box, but we're going to put Him in a box anyway. We'll put Him in a pine box." And they started to do just that. They got up and drove Jesus out of the Synagogue, out of Nazareth, and to a spot where they could launch Him over a cliff. Indeed, that is what would have happened if Jesus hadn't performed a miracle. You see, Jesus doesn't like being put in a box and that's why He decided to perform a miracle after all. Sadly, the people of Nazareth were too angry to see it. The Gospels describe Jesus' miracle when they tell us Jesus walked through the middle of a mob intent on murdering Him. He walked through that bloodthirsty crowd untouched, unchallenged, unhindered. He walked through the crowd and did His work somewhere else.
Of course, just because He went somewhere else, that doesn't mean Jesus escaped the boxes into which people tried to stuff Him. The crowds which followed Him tried to put Him into the box which was labeled "Free Food"; while the Pharisees' box said, "Party-goer, Sinner, and Samaritan." The sick had a box for Jesus on which was painted, "Disease Curer," while the Sanhedrin's box was less complementary. That box read: "Blasphemer. Upsetter-of-the-Status-Quo and Trouble-maker." Even the Roman Procurator, Pontius Pilate, had a special box for Jesus on which he had written: "Insurrectionist and King of the Jews." Well, Jesus never allowed Himself to be confined to these man-made boxes. That's because they never accurately described Him or the divine work He had been born to perform.
It isn't any different today. Oh, most certainly the labels on humanity's boxes have changed in regard to Jesus. 2,000 years ago the Christ was crucified because He was too dangerous and too threatening to let live. Today people prefer to think of Him as a really nice Guy, an Individual who is mild, bland, and completely non-judgmental in His dealings with humanity's sins. He is a non-menacing Deity who is ready and eager to accept any crumbs which might fall from our tables. When Jesus walked the earth, He upset those who were in authority, but today He is considered be the greatest Promoter of keeping things just the way they are. Jesus' contemporaries thought of Him as an Individual who wanted only to establish a kingdom in this world while today many folks think of Him as providing "pie in the sky only after they die."
It doesn't make any difference. 2,000 years ago or today, Jesus doesn't fit our boxes. That's because Jesus, as the beloved Son of God, is too great and the furthest parameters which can be set by our mini-minds are too small to hold Him. Jesus doesn't fit our boxes. That's because He is the Son of God, the Savior of the world. He is the heaven-sent Substitute who remained committed to being humanity's only Ransom and Rescue from the enemies calling for our eternal damnation.
Our boxes are too small to contain Him who was willing to offer Himself for those who didn't want Him, thought they didn't need Him, and continue to do all they can to minimize the power and force of His third-day resurrection from the dead. Do you want Jesus to be a Teacher? He was that and more. Do you want Him to be a prophet? He was that and more. Would you have Him be a leader? He was the greatest Leader this world has ever seen, but He was more. Do you see Him as a Healer? No disease was able to stand before Him, but He was more than that, too. Pick your category, label your box; none will hold Him other than that which reads: "God's Son, the sinner's Savior."
My friends, the other day I was called by a Republican Committee which asked me what I thought of our Democrate President. They informed me that his popularity poll had been falling in recent months. I was somewhat surprised by the conversation because, almost word-for-word it echoed a call I received a few years back from a Democrate Committee which asked me what I thought of the Republican President. At that time they informed me that his popularity poll had been declining. Both these groups seemed quite satisfied in being able to share that the boxes into which the voters were putting these presidents had changed. The pollsters seemed to be deriving a certain degree of enjoyment in saying our leaders have been moved from being in the box labeled "Loved" to the one which read, "Disliked"; from the box which said, "Trusted" to the one which said, "Disbelieved." Such stuffings and movings are common and natural for men who live in the public eye. One day he's a saint, the next day a sinner; one year a man of vision, the next a blind fool. Yes, sinful humans may be moved from box to box to box as opinions change. Men, yes, but opinions should remain the same when it comes to the high regard which should be given to our unchanging Savior.
He is and always will be the Redeemer and Rescuer of lost souls. The only question which remains is the one which asks: "Is Jesus your Savior?" Has the Holy Spirit convinced you of your need and moved you to the box of saved souls or are you still in the one which is marked, "Lost For All Eternity?" I cannot answer that question for you, all I can do is say the Savior who cannot be limited by anything humanity and the forces of darkness can do, wishes to meet you.
If you would like us to introduce the two of you, please, call us at The Lutheran Hour. Amen.
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for January 26, 2014 Topic: Happy Unbelievers
ANNOUNCER: Now Pastor Ken Klaus answers questions from listeners. I'm Mark Eischer.
KLAUS: Hello, Mark. And what questions do we have today?
ANNOUNCER: Something different. Actually, one I've never even thought about. Christianity claims to be the only true religion, the only one that saves. If that is the case, then why do so many followers of other religions seemingly get satisfaction from what they believe?
KLAUS: I'm smiling here for a number of reasons, mostly because of the question our listener didn't ask. And I think that question is far harder than the one he's put before us.
ANNOUNCER: We'll get to that unasked question in just a bit. First, let's take a shot at the one that's here on the table.
KLAUS: Okay. First I'd like to touch on something which is implied in the question.
ANNOUNCER: And that is...
KLAUS: That people derive comfort out of any religion because all religions are the same and one is as good as any other. That's the unspoken assumption. Well, they're not. Now I will grant that every religion can provide some degree of peace, comfort, satisfaction. That's because every religion teaches a morality that may in fact coincide with what the Triune God actually expects of us all. Furthermore, every religion gives people some kind of security that they are somehow moving toward God rather than away from God.
ANNOUNCER: But you say that is a false security.
KLAUS: Yeah. What is false is this: all religions are not created equal. They may or may not all believe in a divine being, they all may teach right from wrong. They may all have some system of punishment for those who are bad and a corresponding blessing for those who are good, as their religion defines good.
ANNOUNCER: But Christianity doesn't work that way. Christianity teaches that we cannot work our way closer to God. That makes Christianity unique among all other religions.
KLAUS: Exactly. We believe by nature we're all lost and condemned. To change that condition, God sent His Son into this world to rescue and redeem us. So that we might be saved, Jesus fulfilled the law, resisted temptation, died the death we had coming. With His resurrection from the dead, all who now believe on Him as Savior are forgiven and promised eternity in heaven.
ANNOUNCER: But then, why do believers of other faiths still feel good about their faith?
KLAUS: Because, when that is all you know, it still seems to be a good thing. And faith in something is, as far as feelings are concerned, a better thing than having no faith at all. Still, such a faith is a poor thing when it is compared to the absolute joy which belongs to those who know, beyond any doubt, that they have been saved by grace through faith.
ANNOUNCER: I suppose it's something like a woman who was married to a man who wasn't really such a good husband. She thinks she's happy, she doesn't know any different. But after he passes away and she remarries; this time to a really good guy, she realizes for the first time how poor that first marriage had been.
KLAUS: Yeah. That's it. You may like your god... until you really get to know Jesus.
ANNOUNCER: Now, you said there was also an unasked question. Could you touch upon that for a moment or two?
KLAUS: Glad to. The question is: "How come so many Christians who know Jesus don't act happier than they do?" I mean we just said, "All other religions pale in comparison to that of knowing the Christ." I think more Christians ought to act like they've been wonderfully, undeservedly blessed. I know somebody who narrowly escaped being in a terrible auto accident. Afterwards, that's all they could talk about. I've met people who were in love. That love was all they could talk about.
ANNOUNCER: Why do you suppose it isn't that way for many Christians?
KLAUS: There is an expression: "familiarity breeds contempt." Another says, "Out of sight, out of mind." I think both of those apply here.
ANNOUNCER: I think I understand. If people have put their faith on the back burner, it's easy to forget all that God has done for us, in Christ. But what about familiarity and contempt?
KLAUS: Using our previous example... a person who is newly in love may gush about the person who is the object of that love. But it's a rare person who is still gushing about that love when they celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. They've grown accustomed to each other. They may have begun to take each other for granted. The same is true in regard to the Lord. Which is why, when it comes to our earthly or heavenly relationships, we regularly need to think about and appreciate the exceptional gift we've been given.
ANNOUNCER: Thank you, Pastor Klaus. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
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